How to support the book community during the coronavirus crisis

Some suggestions on how readers, libraries, independent bookshops and authors can remain united during difficult and uncertain times.

Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

During these deeply challenging times, books can be a source of comfort and escape. Crucially, they are also a way for us to remain connected even while we're physically apart.  

But the book community, like all areas of society, is facing huge difficulties as it adapts to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Bookshops are being forced to close. Book fairs and other literary events have been cancelled. And author's public readings, tours and signings have been put on hold.

So what can we do to remain united? Sharing your reading recommendations online using #BooksConnectUs is a great start. But what else? From simply following your favourite author on social media to using your library without leaving the house, here are some suggestions.

Supporting your local library by borrowing

If you’re a member of your local library, you can do this for free. And it couldn't be simpler. Most libraries employ easy-to-use app services such as BorrowBox or Overdrive (visit your local library's website to find out which system they use). All you do is download the app onto your device, select your library service, activate your library membership and borrow to your heart's content. 

Leave an online review of a book you’ve read

Reading a book doesn't have to be a one-way street. When it comes to supporting the authors you love, your words can be as important to them as their words are to you. A review on a site like Amazon or Goodreads can be crucial to the success of a great book – now as much as ever.

Follow an author on social media

'What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it,' wrote J. D. Salinger in Catcher in the Rye. 'That doesn't happen much, though.' Well, no, it didn't in 1951, but something a lot closer to it does now. Twitter, Instagram or Facebook are not just the perfect way to peer into a writer's life through the anecdotes they post, but also to engage directly with them on everything from book recommendations to musings on writing and world events.

Subscribe to an author's newsletter

One step up from following an author on social media is to subscribe to their newsletter. Many authors use newsletters, not just as an overflow pipe through which to pump out the ideas that didn't make it into their books, but also to offer writing tips and reading advice and to sell their books directly to their fans. Plus, many of them will be writing more now than ever, given all that spare time. It's the perfect way to better get to know your favourite wordsmith.

Start a virtual book club

Just because we can't be together, doesn't mean we can't read together. So as more of us hunker down to a life of solitude, we need to find ways of being together, apart. So why not embrace this period of remote work, and livestream a bookclub through Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts

Let social media be your book klaxon

If social media is not for sharing love in hard times, then really, what is it for? If you're housebound, can't go to your book club or meet pals to talk about books, then let Twitter or Instagram be your klaxon. In other words, shout with your fingers, using one of the many hashtags already in use across social media. As we as #booksconnectus, #amreading is one of the most popular, but there are many others, like #booklovers, #bibliophile, #bookaddict and more.

Shop local

Independent bookshops across Britain are rallying to help readers through the coronavirus, from free home deliveries to 'buy a stranger a book' initiatives. You can help them, your friends, and your favourite authors by buying someone you love a gift voucher at their local indie. It's an act of coronavirus kindness, and it will go a long way in many directions.

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